Photo: Abby Rolland, TPF Fellow 2020/21

When No is the Best Answer

Posted on June 25, 2020 by Abby Rolland, TPF Fellow 2020/21
“So, will you still be able to do your fellowship?”

This question pervaded many conversations I had in March, April, and May, as I prepared to make a cross-country move in June. Let me rewind though, and explain why I was being asked this question.

At the end of February, I accepted a one-year fellowship with The Patterson Foundation (TPF), a fully-endowed, mid-sized, charitable foundation in Sarasota, Florida, that is truly leading the way in community- and trust-based philanthropy. From an outsider’s perspective, it seemed risky. Here I was, with a house, friends and family close by, and a stable marketing and communications position at the only school of philanthropy in the world. I not only worked at this university, but I was also a master’s degree student and finishing up my last semester of grad school.

But to me, after I had been offered this opportunity, there was no question in my mind what my answer would be. (I actually knew my answer in the Sarasota airport after leaving my in-person interview, if I was lucky enough to receive an offer.) For 2.5 years, I’ve studied philanthropy and the power it can have. I’ve listened to speakers, experts, scholars, organizations, and communities speak about the impact and potential, vital effects of engaging and encouraging everyday individuals to give back. I’ve learned about innovative approaches, community-based work, and how people, organizations, and communities can foster real change.

So, the real question was, why wouldn’t I say yes? I was given a marvelous way to dive into the work of a well-respected foundation and its many amazing partners. There was no doubt in my mind that I would be in Sarasota in June.

However, to return to the question above, doubts sprang into friends’ and family members’ minds once COVID-19 struck. After seeing a horrible health crisis, devastating job losses, and an economic downturn (now deemed a recession), my network asked me if my offer still stood. I’ve heard stories of rescinded job opportunities, but with knowledge about TPF from my interviews and discussions with co-workers and classmates, I believed that there was no way they would revoke the offer.

Nevertheless, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to ask if there was even the slightest chance that my offer would be rescinded.

The response? The firmest and most relieving “no” I’ve ever professionally heard. Not only was I invested in TPF and ready to move cross-country with my husband and two cats, but TPF was invested in me and the potential that I will have in philanthropy in the future. It’s reassuring to know entering into my year here that I can place ultimate trust in this organization and its people, and know that I will be a better person and philanthropist if I do.

Fast forward several months, and I have arrived in Sarasota and begun working at TPF. It’s a thrill for me to finally be here, utilizing my philanthropic studies degree while learning from the incredible people in this organization and community.

In other words, I’m here, I’m energized, and I’m ready to get to work.

Comments (2)

  • Beth Duda

    Beth Duda

    26 June 2020 at 13:29 | #

    Welcome, Abby! So happy to have you part of a team dedicated to caring, connecting, collaborating, contributing, and creating.


  • Anne Camille Talley

    Anne Camille Talley

    04 July 2020 at 07:28 | #

    Welcome, indeed, Abby. At this stage in your career, I can hardly imagine a better place to be. The Patterson Foundation is a true leader in philanthropy.


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